Fort Toulouse (Circa 1756) by Davy Hobbs
Ayokpache Eno Mokla
(Hello my friend)
Welcome to this great pastime! To be a native interpreter is a unique challenge but a very rewarding one. As interpreters at Fort Toulouse we are always striving to present to the public an accurate cross-section of the Native and French inhabitants of the area. The primary goal of this booklet is give some guidelines concerning the use of the material culture of the native people (the Alabamas) and how it would affect their appearance. The time period we concentrate on is the French contact time period with the target year of 1756 (the beginning of the French and Indian War).
Words of caution - When gathering your clothing and gear be sure that the items you purchase are historically accurate. If you invest in items that are correct to begin with it will save you money and frustration in the future.
As in any other type of "re-enacting" there is debate to what exactly the people being emulated looked and dressed like. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is so little information in the way of sketches and good first person accounts. Due to this lack of information we sometimes look at period sketches of various eastern woodland native people to gain a sense of colonial "style!!!" It may not be possible to document some items to the "Alabamas" but the main emphasis is to develop a colonial southern look. This is not to say that an "any thing -goes attitude" is acceptable; if you want to use some piece of equipment (gear, clothing, etc.) that is unusual to our time period be prepared to document its use. There are far too many people building their entire persona around a certain piece of questionable gear to try explain why they own it. There are issues in this handbook that are in debate, however the details of clothing are either taken from period sketches or first person narratives of the time period. Before moving to the clothing details and accessories one comment should be made. The best interpreters are always researching and rethinking their appearance and attitude based upon the research data they have found, it is a never-ending process.
The faction of the Creek Confederacy that lived near Fort Toulouse were known as the "Alabamas." These people (like all southern tribes) have become very dependent upon the Deer Skin Trade and have had 40 years of close contact with the French inhabitants of the fort. This trade system conducted primarily with the French and English had a great impact on the Colonial Indian in many areas including appearance!
Dressing the part of a Colonial Southeastern Indian can be very challenging. For our French counter parts it is easy to be viewed by the public as creditable by the act of putting on the clothing and gear. However we are emulating a different race of people with very different ideas of style. Fashion and trends are nothing new. Native people dress in very unique and expressive ways. For both sexes jewelry and various ornamentation was a form of expression that promotes: tribal identity, social ideas of style and sometimes outward expression of religious beliefs. There is the perception that native people always wear the most elaborate things they owned, however this is not the case. You would not wear a suit to roam through the woods would you? In most cultures we dress for the occasion and this is very true in native society. The ceremonial outfits are great for dances or social events such as a parlay. But for hunting, everyday working, tanning hides; cooking and fighting in such attire is neither practical nor correct. This is not to say that your everyday clothing will be devoid of decoration, but it would be toned down compared to your "Sunday clothes." Even though the clothing of men and women would all have resembled each other, we can still have our own differences with the way we put things together.
For every Caucasian who has ever attempted an Indian impression there are stumbling blocks that have to be overcome. The physical appearance of these people is described as copper-toned with dark almost black hair. We all were not born with the genetics to look like the people we are trying to emulate. But to get the right skin tone you might want to try using a tanning bed or skin tinting cosmetics. This is your option and is not mandatory.
While we are participating at the fort it should be remembered the reason why we are there. The education of the public as to the existence and the appearance of these people is a challenge. Realize that many people have very slanted views concerning Native Americans and we should not get caught up in that agenda, just present factual information and be aware that some people just want to inform you to how knowledgeable they think they are! We should show the material culture and aspect by the way we interact with our French counterparts as well as each other. It is important to honor the people that we are emulating and to be try them as human beings. They where not saints nor devils, just people trying to survive in a fast changing world where their society has turned turbulent due to external European politics combined with the influx of trade goods.
The items listed below are the minimum implements you will need for your impression. Realize that the French impression is quite expensive and our impression should not be thought of as the "cheap way out." We realize that everyone has to start somewhere but be aware that you can spend just as much money on wrong equipment. You should think in terms of quality and historical correctness before purchasing equipment. This list is not complete for volumes could be written on some topics listed. This will give you a place to start from and direct you to the questions you should be asking. Good luck in your endeavors and we hope to "see you around the council fire!"
As a male interpreter the role that you take on is one of a hunter and warrior. We will start from head down with clothing and gear. For demonstration purposes we need to be mending gear, (hunting tools for example), building projects that serve the village and interacting with our French brothers & sisters.
Nothing personifies a native impression more that the hair style and color. The hair color of these people is described as dark almost black, if your hair color is fair then you should consider a head covering (discussed latter) or a dye job. Probably the most common hairstyle for men was variations on the scalplock (see painting of Creek delegation with Oglethorpe). Not everyone is in a position to shave your head however the bowl cut is viable alternative. This hairstyle is seen in the Von Reck sketches. There is reference in Adair to an Indian male wearing a silk scarf tied about his head. The question of Turbans has been debated for years. This silk scarf reference may very well be the proto-type for the turbans of the later time periods. The Trumbil sketches of the 1780s show Creek males with turbans which appear to be cravats, which show up in the trade list in numbers. Hair ornaments such as: Silver & cane hair tubes, finger woven pendents, small roaches of deer hair, hanks of feathers all do much to accent the above mentioned hairstyles.
The trade shirt is an important item of the Deerskin trade. The earliest known surviving example is the Caldwell shirt. These shirts where probably of linen and white seems to be the most prevalent, however, stripes, checks and some prints are made mention of in the various trade list of the period. Be very careful of the fabric you chose for shirt construction especially where prints are concerned. The method of printing shirts during this period was block printing and it is very hard to find prints that even come close to the old style. Woven stripes and checks are a little easier to find but be certain that the material is at least 100% cotton, linen, wool, or cotton/linen blends. No synthetics. The colors that you select should emulated those colors produced by natural dyes. For dress-up occasions there are many prints showing native males wearing white linen shirts with ruffles on the cuffs and at the neck slit. Combined with a fine set of leggings, breechcloth, and matchcoat this makes for a stunning image!!!!
The one male garment that is very universal in native society is the breech cloth. The breech cloth or breech clout is simple a long piece of stroud that is passed between the legs and secured to the body by a belt or thong. The breech cloths seen in the Von Reck sketches hang down to mid thigh in front and in back, and the width appears to be around 10 inches. As with the leggings the use of silk or woolen tape to dress up the garment is sometimes used or the garment could be nothing more than the strip of stroud.
The leggings are used in conjunction with the breech cloth for the lower body covering. The leggings are usually constructed of buckskin or wool stroud. The most common type of legging seen in the sketches of the time period is the side flap. The leggings cover from the ankle to about mid thigh where a strap is attached to hold the leggings up. Usually the leggings are also supported by the use of garters tied beneath the knee (mentioned later). Wool stroud mentioned in both English and French trade list usually mentions the colors red and navy blue. Other colors seen are white, black, and brown.
The moccasin is the most common native constructed footwear. They are made of tanned deer or elk skin and give some protection to the feet while walking in the woods. The typical southeastern work moccasin used by the Seminoles during the 19th century is probably very close the style used in the earlier time periods. The commercially produced moccasins do not come close to the above mentioned style. The members of the Indian group can give assistance to the proper style and construction. Another option is to wear colonial buckle shoes. There are many examples on trade list where these shoes were traded to the natives of the area. The last option, if you can stand it, is to go barefoot!
Sashes and Garters:
In many of the latter period sketches Indian males are pictured with woven sashes and garters to gather their shirt and hold up their leggings. Adair makes mention to the women weaving wool yarn to produce sashes, garters, shot pouches, etc. Decorated with beautiful stripes and or checkers. To start with a strip of woolen stroud and a leather belt will substitute for these items. Finger woven pieces are high dollar items that should be selected carefully. If you have the time and patience to learn to weave these items it is very rewarding, and really add to your outfit. Beware of loom-woven sashes and garters sold at the rendezvous. There are many people producing loom woven sashes and garters but these are not of the correct construction and are usually not of the proper colors. The members of the group can give advice to selection.
Coats, Match Coats, Etc.:
During the winter months a single cotton or linen shirt does not cut the chill! One item that is very utilitarian is simply a piece of stroud or blanket called a match coat. In countless painting Indian males(and females) are seen with a piece of stroud or blanket warped in toga fashion to ward off the cold. Coats - a popular item of the trade was coats that mimicked the military coats of the French and British armies. There is also mention of waist coats which should be constructed of a 1750s pattern as well. These are costly items and much research should be done before the purchase.
Native people of both sexes wear jewelry for a variety of reasons. Glass trade beads used as necklaces were popular among both sexes but there are several accounts of women wearing blue beads. Realize that there are many glass beads on the market but few are of the correct style for our time period. One book to reference is The Tunica Treasure by Jeffery P. Brain. The Trudue site is probably one of the largest southeastern sites off French and English trade goods. Wrist bracelets of brass were very common and are cheap to make (use 1/8" brass welding rods!). One type of ornamentation that is very common is silver ear bobs. These are made for pierced ears and look like a million bucks! (See the original in the visitors center, notice that the cone part is short and the bottom is dome shaped.) Concerning beads, one piece of interesting data was reported by Dr. Marvin Smith years ago. In the burials they were working in the Southeast the females seemed to have large amounts of beads around their necks and the males may have just one or two strands if any. Be very careful when you buy these items because there is a lot of stuff out there that is not correct. Look at the original items and then shop around and don't always take the merchant's word for what is correct; remember all most want is $$$$$$$$.
The most prized weapon of this period was the flintlock trade musket. This will be the most costly part of your outfit but one you will treasure. Both the French and the English were trading in close proximity to the fort so either one of these type of muskets will do: French type C or D trade guns; English Type G or Wilson trade guns. To service your musket you will need a proper shot pouch and powder horn. Consult with group members before purchase is made.
This is actually a tool and a weapon. The typical knife used was a butchers knife similar to the chefs knife used in the kitchen. Hollywood has convinced everyone that your just not a frontier person unless you own a knife that is 14" long with a huge brass cross guard. Bowie knives and such are old looking but do not fit the ticket for historical correctness or practicality. The scalping knife is not a huge knife, Adair makes mention to Creek men with scalping knives in sheaths around their neck. This style of carriage is very prevalent in the northeast and appears to be used in the southeast as well.
The iron hatchet was a very utilitarian tool for splitting wood and could also be used as a weapon. Sometimes referred to as "tomahawks." There are originals on display in the visitors center for details.
As a female you have a very important role in Creek society. It is true that a large amount of the work was performed by the women however, the Creek people have a matriarchal society in which the women own the houses and the land! For demonstration purposes the women would be cooking, chopping wood, taming hides, finger weaving, twinning, basket making, working in the garden, preparing food for winter storage and interacting with our French brothers & sisters. A large majority of the beautiful Native American art was made by the women!
The women would grow their hair long. The hair should be long enough to pull back into a braid. Bartram says "never cut their hair, but plait it in wreaths, which are turned up, and fastened on the crown with a silver broach, forming a wreathed top-knot, decorated with an incredible quantity of silk ribbands, of various colors,...." He also adds that decorations were worn only on special occasions,... Bossu describes, "plaited after the German fashion." Adair remarks "that they never forget to anoint and tie up their hair , except in their time of mourning." When you put your hair up you can use a ribbon to help tie it up and have a bone pin to pin the club in place. The anointing of the hair is the use of bear oil. The Creek people are described as having dark, almost black, hair so if you have light colored hair consider a dye job.
European women's chemise, which is long and would be worn out over the skirt. Men's trade shirt (see the guidelines for male interpreters) - these would be shirts that the Indian women would have gotten off of the soldiers or inhabitants for a trade. Since European clothing was so much wanted by the Indians you could have worn a bed jacket they would be mixing European with Indian. European clothes and cloth was so hard to get and when they got these items they treasured them.
One of the simplest lower body coverings developed by native women was the wrap around skirt. This was nothing more than a rectangular piece of stroud that is sometimes trimmed with ribbons and beads. This garment would extend to knee length and is tied or belted at the waist. European women's skirt that they would have gotten in trade. They could have decorated these skirts up with ribbon or beads. In Deerskins and Duffles "The new European textiles and decorations revolutionized Creek dress." Also says "during the warm season, women wore only a 'bit of coloured cloth tied round their waist,' to complete delight of the traders." (By this they would not have had a shirt on, but we can't do this at the fort) In cooler weather, they added "a little short waistcoat, usually made of calico, printed linen, or fine cloth, decorated with lace, beads, &c." Calico of this time period is not the same as calico of today so be careful as to what you get. Remember they would not have worn their fine clothes out to work in. There is a time and place to show these off.
From Indians of the Southeastern United States:
'...Most of the Gulf Indians wore at times garments sometimes called leggings or boots by the English...'
'...wrapped around each leg and brought up high enough so as to be fastened to the belt by means of leather cords...'
'...they were used less about home than during excursions to some distance and they were mainly intended to protect the wearer from bushes and underbrush of various kinds.'
The leggings are usually constructed of buckskin or wool stroud. The most common type of legging seen in the sketches of the time period is the side flap. The leggings cover from the ankle to about mid thigh, and are supported by the use of garters tied beneath the knee (mentioned later). Wool stroud mentioned in both English and French trade lists usually mentions the colors red and navy blue. Other colors seen are white, black, and brown. These also can be decorated with ribbons and beads to "dress" up a plain set of leggings.
The moccasin is the most common native construction. They are made of tanned deer or elk skin and give some protection to the feet while walking in the woods. The typical southeastern work moccasin used by the Seminoles during the 19th century is very close to the style used in the earlier time periods. The commercially produced moccasins do not come close to the above mentioned style. The members of the group can give assistance to the proper style and construction. Another option is to wear colonial buckle shoes. There are many examples on trade list where these shoes were traded to the natives of the area. The last option, if you can stand it is to go barefoot! This would have been the most common thing they would do.
Belts and Garters:
The Indian women would have been wearing leathern belts, or trade cloth. Adair speaks of "...tie it with a leathern belt, which is commonly covered with brass runners....." As far as garters you can use leather thongs, cloth ties, or woven garters. Beware of loom woven, these are not of the correct construction and are usually not of the proper colors. Members of the group can give help and advise.
Upper Body Covering:
During the winter months a single cotton or linen shirt does not cut the chill. One of the items that is very utilitarian is simply a piece of stroud or blanket called a match coat. In countless paintings Indian males and females are seen with a piece of stroud or blanket wrapped about to ward off the cold. This can be decorated with contrasting ribbon or woolen tape to make a very attractive mantle. You can also incorporate European winter attire.
Native people of both sexes wear jewelry for a variety of reasons. Glass trade beads used as necklaces were popular among both sexes but there are several accounts of women wearing blue beads. Realize that there are many glass beads on the market but few are of the correct style for our time period. One piece of interesting data was reported by Dr. Marvin Smith years ago. In the burials they were working in the southeast the females seemed to have large amounts of beads around their necks and the males may have just one or two strands if any. One book to reference is The Tunica Treasure by Jeffery P. Brain. The Trudge site is probably one of the largest southeastern sites of French and English trade goods. Wrist bracelets of brass were very common and are cheap to make (use 1/8" brass welding rods!) One type of ornamentation that is very common is silver ear bobs. These are made for pierced ears and look like a million bucks. (See the original in the visitors center, notice that the cone part is short and the bottom is dome shaped) The ball-cone earrings are dug up by Archeologist by the hand fulls. Their whole ear would have these hanging. Try to stay away from the ear-wheel these are Rev. War time. Ring brooches are another item that is found by the tons. These are used a decoration on the shirts, skirts, leggings. If you have been baptized and of the European faith you would have had crosses. Be very careful when you buy these items because there is a lot of stuff out there that is not correct. Look at the original items and then shop around and don't always take the merchants word for what is correct, all they want is your money $$$$$$.
The French Outpost at the Alabamas on the Coosa
By: Daniel H. Thomas
Deerskins & Duffels
Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815
By: Kathryne E. Holland Braund
Adair's History of the American Indians
By: Samuel Cole Williams
The Indians of the Southeastern United States
By: John R. Swanton
Life Portraits, a Catalogue of Pictures 1564-1860
By: Emma Lila Fundaburk